Pokémon Go has benefits for us

Pokeman Go
Pokeman Go

You’ve probably heard of it.  Pokémon Go is all the rage.  For those of you not familiar with it, the game allows players to interact with virtual Pokémon as if they are in the real environment. When you find one, the game opens up your phone's camera and you flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it. The game has added billions, yes billions, of dollars to Nintendo’s valuation. It’s not without controversy.  Intent on the game, people have fallen or walked into things.  There has been criticism of the use of certain graveyards and memorials as part of the game, and even reports of crime as people were lured with the thought of Pokémon and then robbed.

For us it has been beneficial.  The game gets people up and walking and if you know Referential you know we value health and encourage exercise.  The part of our team that usually walks the least is now up and about at lunch and breaks.  Not only are they getting steps, they are having fun together.  And those of us who don’t play are enjoying it.  We’re learning the lingo and watching the friendly competition as folks move through the stages.  Who knew a game would have such impact on health and camaraderie!

Congratulations on their promotions!

Big congratulations to two team members who were both recently promoted. Alexander was promoted a short time ago and Miguel just today. In both cases we had a team lunch scheduled, but no details. Lots of guessing as to what would be discussed and then we were surprised with the good news.  It’s nice to hear such news for our team mates while at a celebratory lunch!  Well deserved by both. While they have donea great job across the board, some major accomplishments stand out. Alexander was the driving force for our initial Influitive project which has been hugely successful.  Miguel is working with one of our clients who is among the first to move to a new advocacy platform. Both have been at the forefront of new services and technology expertise we can now offer our clients. We are proud of their accomplishments, congratulations again!

Referential: Influitive's First Certified Partner!

Influitive certification logoWe just got the official word that we are Influitive‘s first Certified Partner!  Just in case you haven't heard of them, the Influitive platform provides companies with the ability to create communities of advocates and really leverage all the goodwill that their advocates have generated. Getting certified required the successful completion, by more than one of the Referential team, of a series of online and classroom training sessions, field training, and passing a final oral exam to demonstrate that we have the necessary skills and knowledge to represent Influitive to customers.

Influitive was created by the founder of Eloqua (since bought by Oracle for almost $1 billion) and is attracting a lot of attention in the marketplace. We've watched the platform evolve and mature over the last three years and definitely feel that the time is right to participate in what we think will be a game changer in our industry. One of the great things for us is that the AdvocateHub, as it's known, is a logical extension of everything we've been doing over the last 20+ years in the reference/advocacy space - it just makes things so much easier!

Influitive has offices around the globe and we’re really proud to be the first Certified Partner in the world!

Back From Influitive's Advocamp

Several of us just returned from Influitive’s Advocamp, which, to use their words, is "a global business gathering focused on one transformational idea: that the future belongs to companies that develop and mobilize advocates as their primary goal". And that’s exactly what Referential does for our clients, help them realize the true value of their customers through advocacy. At Advocamp two of us completed Advocate Marketing Certification. Previously two members of the team completed partner training and certification. We’re about to work with several clients who are at early stages of using Influitive’s solution and we are ready!

On day one of Advocamp we focused on certifications and in depth training. The balance of the event had about 50 sessions, spread over multiple tracks. While the presentations andkeynotes were short, by design, the content was rich. The event was a great match to our company focus.

Nearly 1000 enthusiastic people attended. Influitive transformed the Hyatt in San Francisco to a camp ground. They brought in hundreds of trees, rustic wood backdrops, and even faux fires! Good job Influitive! An informative and fun event. We look forward to working with Influitive more in the future and are already planning to attend next year’s Advocamp.

See you at the conferences!

We are again sponsoring the Summit on Customer Engagement. This year’s summit is next week. Attendees are professionals involved in customer engagement programs.   One of our managing partners, Helen Feber, is a speaker at the event. She’ll be hosting a session for people new to advocacy work. Interestingly some of our clients are speakers as well!   We’ve been sponsoring for several years. It’s always a great opportunity to connect with colleagues, share best practices, and collaborate.   It’s an event we look forward to every year. If you will be there stop by our booth and say hi! RSA is the same week. We like to attend industry shows to stay current on major issues.  RSA is a great opportunity to learn about advances in technology and IT, especially security trends. It’s expected that security issues raised by the pervasive use of mobile devices will be a major topic this year, as will implications of the Internet of Things, the safety of personal data – there’s no shortage of security topics of great importance to businesses today.

It’s not often we have two major shows at the exact same time. We are lucky that both are local. It makes it easier for more of the team to participate, while of course continuing to support our clients. We have a busy week ahead, if you’ll be at either event we hope to see you!

Process review for us - growth for our clients

We have many clients and each has a slightly different advocacy program. Over time, added experience and viewpoints has increased our knowledge and capabilities. Together, those led to our decision to do a complete process review. It’s good to take a step back now and then to ensure we’re using the best processes and tools across the board. It’s also a chance to do some cross training. Team members who work on accounts where our services are very focused might not have yet had the opportunity to participate in the full range of our offerings. The first step was to update our master template. This will give us a refreshed starting point for new clients and updated documentation for training new hires. This process review is an opportunity to look for growth for our clients. We can share best practices and genericized information about where other clients are seeing the most impact. And we know there’s no better salesperson than a happy customer!   As we help our clients harness the power of their happy customers it leads to increased sales. And that’s really what we’re here to do, help our clients grow.

A month of new beginnings

January has been a month of firsts. We begin the year with several new clients! Lots of new people, products, systems, and company cultures to learn. It’s always exciting to add a new client, several at once keeps all of us learning and busy.

We also moved to a new financial system. We were up and running more quickly than expected however everything is just slightly different than in our old system. Many things are faster and easier while others are not – yet! First time through reconciliations to invoicing takes a bit longer as well. Hopefully by this time next month it’s as familiar to us as the old system was. With our growth we needed something more robust and are happy with how smooth the change has been.

January has also seen benefits changes. It’s our first month with a new benefit – dental insurance. We had bit of a glitch as we went through the enrollment process but everything has been addressed and we are happy to be able to offer this new benefit to the team. In addition our medical plan changed. We still have the same provider but it was time to change as our old plan would no longer be grandfathered. We were able to offer choices and everyone is happy with the new coverage.

As we grow we are seeing lots of change.  Exciting and it's certainly been a busy start for 2016!

2016 - Off to a fast start!

VolunteeringHere’s a photo of our volunteer stint at Health Trust. As you can see from our attire it was a bit cold in their warehouse! Afterwards we had a team lunch and later a gift exchange.   Most of us worked all of December, a few took off a day or two.   It stayed surprisingly busy, as many of our clients were at their fiscal year end. Our advocacy work was critical to help our clients close more business, and close that business faster. 2015 already feels so far away. We are not far into 2016 but we’ve switched to a new finance application, reallocated team hours to match our new contracts, started work with a few new clients, and have one of the new clients visiting on site today. Next week we’re gearing up to host a local customer advocacy group meeting. The new offices give us plenty of meeting space for larger groups. We are off to a great start for what we know will be a great year for our company and the team.

More good news, in just 7 days we’ve already had more rain in northern California in January than the last 3 Januarys combined so we’re hoping we make a dent in the drought!

May 2016 be a wonderful year for you too, both personally and professionally.

Holiday Volunteering - Health Priority

Next week we will be celebrating the holidays as a team. As we did last year we will spend the afternoon volunteering. This year we’ll be sorting food with the FOODBasket Food Sorting team of The Health Trust. We will be sorting and then helping with storage and display of fresh produce which will be offered to their AIDS Services and Family Resource Center clients. We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, a place of great wealth, but also of great need, as this paragraph from The Health Trust website makes crystal clear: Silicon Valley is a place of innovation, opportunity and affluence. On average, it is one of the healthiest, wealthiest places in the world. But not all residents of Silicon Valley share in that wealth – or that health. More than 13 percent of children in Santa Clara County are living in poverty. More than half of the adults are overweight or obese. Nearly half of the county’s older adults are considered impoverished. More than 19,000 adults and youth are homeless.

Our time as a team is one way we can help contribute to their vision of a healthier Silicon Valley for everyone.  It's also aligned with our priority on health and wellness - from Fitbits for everyone to regular discussions about nutrition.  This volunteer opportunity is a good match for our company.

Year end planning, in full swing

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and from a business perspective year end planning has begun in earnest. We finished open enrollment for new benefits plans, adding optional dental insurance and more medical choices. Last week our payroll service provider had a year end information session, full of good reminders for the end of 2015 as well as what we’ll see as 2016 begins. We know what our 401K match will be, due early in 2016. We offer a 401K match to all employees, regardless of their level of participation in the program. We want everyone off to a good start towards their retirement. Also, today we sent a message off to the accountant to verify the information he needs to provide an early estimate of our tax liability. Last year we volunteered as a team at Second Harvest Food Bank, just before our holiday lunch, and are scheduling another volunteer session for this year. A white elephant gift exchange is planned, maybe some of us will find Black Friday deals this weekend! And to make the office festive, we have decorating ahead. In our old office we had lights strung around the main room with ornaments. Our new offices are much bigger, more decorations are also on the shopping list! While there are many business details to year end we also ensure there’s time for fun and giving back to others.

Disasters - are you ready?

September was National Preparedness Month and October has the Great American Shakeout, both of which makes companies like ours both in earthquake territory and with an El Nino winter on the way, think about disaster preparedness.   Unfortunately only a small percent of small businesses have a plan. Just a few of the things we have in place include: fire extinguishers in each room, first aid kits, and a trained emergency responder on staff. We do regular back ups and have off site access to the majority of the information we work with on a regular basis. The building itself is robust, having very recently gone through a series of inspections and improvements.   We also have various insurance policies, a generator at an off site alternate work location, and cell phones as back up to our in office phone system.

According to the Small Business Association ninety percent of companies fail within a year of a disaster unless they can resume operations within five days. While there is even more we can do to be prepared for disasters, we know we can be back in business very quickly no matter what comes our way.

Let's all avoid the flu this season!

None of us want the flu and there are things we can do at the workplace to help keep employees well. For us it begins with the choice of healthcare providers. We have a Kaiser plan and Kaiser has frequent shot clinics, walk right up and get your vaccination.   Recently several of the Kaiser Clinics near us offered drive through vaccinations. No need to get out of your car, just stick your arm out and be on your way! For day to day use we have hand sanitizer and tissues on desks and in public areas, and we encourage their use.   That’s an easy way to make it convenient to keep hands clean.

While we hope everyone stays well, if someone is ill, and can’t work at home, we do have disposable face masks. They help contain the sniffles and sneezes. It’s highly appreciated by members of the team that are very susceptible or have had health issues recently. While the masks may not be the most comfortable to wear, it’s the least we can do to help others stay well.

Year round we encourage healthy habits. We all have our Fitbits and try to reach our step goal each day. We (for the most part) eat well. That foundation should help us stay well.   Is there anything special your company does to keep employees healthy?

Amazing Accomplishment

One of our team members has a famous nephew who has reached an amazing accomplishment. NC Dions first baseman Eric Thames became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season in the Korea Baseball Organization when he recently stole his 40th base.

At the SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, the 29-year-old American slugger, who hit his 47th home run of this season, a three-run home run during the first inning, drew a base on balls to leadoff the third inning. When his team mate Na Sung-bum was at bat, Thames stole second on the first pitch of Wyverns pitcher Shin Jae-woong.

After sliding into second base, Thames waited for the umpire called him safe. After ump's call, he pulled out the base to celebrate.

Though there have been six players who have joined the 30-30 club, no one has ever reached this unprecedented milestone in Korean league history. Only four players have had such a record in Major League Baseball in the United States while no one in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball has ever reached that plateau.

We all congratulate Eric!

We are hiring!

We have a job opening! Referential, Inc. is focused on customer success, that's what we do! We design, implement, and manage customer reference programs; which includes turning stories from our client's customer base into compelling pieces which then help close additional sales. We have an opening for a staff reference manager. We’re looking for a creative person, and foreign language expertise is highly desired. This role will be a member of the core team and responsible for client database information data entry, reference customer recruitment, some reference request fulfillment, assisting with our web site, and helping us penetrate new markets. You can see more details on the careers page of our website. Help us find the next great member of our team!

Business Etiquitte Refresher

We’re embarking on an etiquette refresher for the team. We work in a small, informal office but our new location is quite near offices and homes of some of our clients. We expect more drop ins than at our old location. Also some of our new hires have been recent college graduates.  They bring tons of great skills but haven't spent a lot of time in an office environment.  They’ve not had the opportunity for business lunches or developed a sensitivity for the differences seen when working with clients in various countries. So for some this will not be as much a refresher as a learning it all for the first time. This is probably not seen as the most exciting of topics so to inject a bit of fun we put the topics in a hat and each pulled one. Over the next several weeks we’ll have brown bag lunches where we’ll each take a week to present our topic.   We’ll be fed, we’ll be learning, we get to take turns presenting – not so bad! We’ll share highlights with you as we go through the topics.

Referential is adding expertise in Mandarin

More and more of our clients have expressed a need for assistance with their customers in China so we are adding Mandarin capability next week.  Found someone with just the right background – past sales experience, in both China and the US, for high tech firms – a great match for what we need.   With customer reference activities we do find local language capability makes a huge difference and native speakers bring not only language skills but they also know important cultural nuances which aren’t as easy to learn in school. It’s exciting that we’re growing again!  We’re looking forward to a new team member starting next week!

 

New Address Coming Soon

We’re counting down the days to our move to our new building.   Flooring is in.  Walls are newly painted.  Cubicles and desks arrive and will be built tomorrow.  Kitchen cabinets and appliances installed.   Treadmill desks, we have two, ready to go.  Power and web access are set.  Site security has been improved.  Most of us have figured out the best new commute too. Of course we still need to pack and move everything we’ve accumulated over our two years here.  We need new signage at the street.  Our clients, partners, vendors, plus city and state government agencies all need our new address.  Even the ones with whom we only interact online.  And so much more.  As much as the world has gone digital this has been a good reminder of the importance of place.

The big move is scheduled for President’s Day weekend.  We'll be leaving Campbell, CA and headed not far down the road to San Jose.  Pictures and details right after!  If you’re local we hope you visit, you know you’re always welcome!

We will be the new neighbors soon

new floorsLots of work is underway at our new location.  Old floors out, new flooring in last weekend.  You can see one of the offices here.  New furniture has been purchased and new appliances are on the way for our kitchen. At the same time we’re getting ready to move we are also adjusting to new neighbors at our current location.  The suite across the hall has new tenants.  Suddenly there are fewer open spaces in the parking lot and someone’s usual spot has a new car in it!    The exterior door was locked mid day and no one took keys to that door when they ran out for coffee – good thing they did take their cell phone to get one of us who stayed behind to let them back in.  It’s interesting the little things we took as the norm are now being challenged.

Nothing bad about all this at all, it’s just changing our routines.   Lucky for us they are very good neighbors.  This is good timing.  We need to keep this in mind when we move.  While we bought the building we’re only using half, the other half has current tenants.  This should remind us to be sensitive to them.  The move will not only be an adjustment for us but for them as well.  We do intend to not only be good landlords but great neighbors!

Big News For the Start of 2015!

First of all, happy New Year to all!  Here at Referential we took various amounts of time off but everyone is now back and in full swing. Our big news to kick off 2015 is that we’re moving.   Bigger offices, great location, snazzy new furniture – but best of all - we own it!  2014 was a great year and we knew we would need more space.  We looked for a space we could easily customize to our needs and ended up finding the perfect building.   We’ll be moving in mid February.  Keep an eye on this space for more details and photos as we get closer!  As much as we have loved this location in Campbell we're excited for our move to San Jose, CA.

Don't worry, we'll continue to be easy to contact - no change to email addresses or phone numbers, just a new location to visit when you are here in the Bay Area.

Hiring - looking for foreign language expertise

We’re hiring again, looking for someone with foreign language skills and, of course, great English!   The team is asking their friends, and friends of friends.  So far that’s been our very best source of new employees. All the people we hired last year were from contacts our existing employees have and all are proficient in at least two languages.   This time we need a ‘less common’ language so are doing a bit more to publicize the position. Today we posted the opening at two local colleges.   Of course the systems they use are different, but both were fairly easy for registration and then job posting.  We also contacted a local school which specializes just in foreign language instruction.  They’ll be distributing the opening to students and staff.

Our team may still be the best source for another candidate but it will be interesting to see what comes of the other postings.  We wouldn’t mind being flooded with resumes soon!